Schools Were Not Open to Provide Genetic Мaterial
The claim that schools are opened so they can “collect genetic material” violates laws regarding the confidentiality of health data and the protection of patients’ rights. Sharing views with suspicion of “collection of genetic material” is not new and is often present when Covid-19 vaccination is mentioned. These suspicions come in the wake of the announced screening for the presence of coronavirus among pupils. The Ministry of Education and Science (MES) informs that on a daily basis the number of newly infected students ranges from 0.01 to 0.03 percent of a total of 240 thousand students
“They opened the schools not to teach the children but to collect their genetic material through tests,” is the Facebook message warning about the true purpose of the start of the school year with a physical presence. The post, which misinforms, caused a lot of attention and has been shared 13 times so far.
First, after the last school year, which took place online, this year all the recommendations of international organizations, such as UNICEF, supported the transition to teaching with a physical presence in order to improve students’ knowledge. The decision of the Government of the RNM to open schools was welcomed by a statement from Patricia DiGiovanni, UNICEF Representative in the country. According to her, Macedonia had the longest school closure of 54 weeks, which is above the world average of 24 weeks.
“We know from our research with school management, teachers and parents in North Macedonia that while distance education helped to keep children learning, more than half of all teachers saw an increase in the number of students who struggled or failed to acquire what they were being taught due to distance learning. Furthermore, before the COVID-19 pandemic, North Macedonia was already facing a learning crisis. While the country showed promising improvements during the last PISA results, still more than half of all fifteen-year-olds in the country were failing to meet basic proficiency levels in reading and maths. Any continued disruptions in education may reverse these gains. – DiGiovanni states.
The position accepted by the Macedonian educational authorities is “schools should open first and close last”.
Second, the claim that schools are opened to “collect genetic material” violates laws regarding the confidentiality of health data and the protection of patients’ rights.
Article 25 of the Law on Protection of Patients’ Rights reads:
Human substances from which the patient can be identified must be kept confidential, in accordance with the regulations on personal data protection (paragraph 5).
Data protection is also prescribed in the Law on Health Care:
The patient has the right to confidentiality of data relating their health, medical, i.e. clinical condition, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment, as well as all personal data and other information, which must be kept confidential, even after their death, in accordance with the regulations for keeping professional and business secret, as well as for personal data protection.
Sharing views with suspicions of “genetic material collection” is not new and is often present when Covid-19 vaccination is mentioned. These suspicions come in anticipation of the announced screening for the presence of coronavirus among schools. The Minister of Health, Venko Filipce, announced that screening of students in primary and secondary schools in the country will begin, for which the methodology will be presented these days.
After the beginning of the school year, there is an expected increase in the number of cases among students. The fact that most young people at that age pass the virus asymptomatically indicates the need for such testing to see the actual number of infected in schools and to accurately assess the risk. What is important is that for now the situation in the schools is stable, but such testing will give us accurate information and knowledge for further management of the pandemic and education, said the Minister.
In some European countries, regular screening is carried out in schools. For illustration, we share the practice in Germany. Unvaccinated students are tested three times a week, while unvaccinated teachers are required to have a corona test daily. If a student becomes ill, instead of quarantine, all classmates should be tested for at least five days with a rapid corona test each day. This applies to all types of schools. In some states, such as Baden-Württemberg, the mandatory wearing of masks has been abolished in exchange for regular testing. Students are given tests, which are done at home, before leaving for school. In Bavaria, rapid antigen tests in schools are mandatory for all students three times a week.
In Austria, testing is also done in schools, with the consent of the parents.
In our country, so far 3,752 children and young people aged 12 to 17 have been fully vaccinated, with coverage of 2.7%. The Ministry of Education and Science (MES) informs that on a daily basis the number of newly infected students ranges from 0.01 to 0.03 percent of a total of 240 thousand students. Over 72% of the teaching staff is fully vaccinated.